Can a Simple Friend Request Result in a Serious Ethics Violation?

Think a simple friend request won’t result in a serious ethics violation? Think again.

A defense attorney was charged with an ethics violation when his paralegal sent a friend request to a plaintiff in a personal injury case. While the attorney claimed he didn’t fully understand how Facebook worked, he allowed his paralegal to send a friend request along with a flattering message from a Facebook account that didn’t include her real name or any information that showed that she worked for defense counsel. After the plaintiff accepted the friend request, the defense paralegal downloaded a video showing the plaintiff wrestling and engaging in other physical activities at some point after his alleged injury. 

After the video surfaced at the plaintiff’s deposition, the plaintiff’s attorney filed an ethics complaint claiming that the defense attorney’s office communicated with a represented party by sending a friend request to the plaintiff without permission.

When reviewing the case, the New Jersey Supreme Court held that an attorney’s responsibilities in today’s day and age are clear when it comes to Facebook and other social media platforms: if a party puts privacy settings up to shield content from the general public, it would be an ethics violation for a defense attorney or someone from their office to send that represented party a friend request for purposes of accessing private information to use in litigation.

This means that your law firm could be subject to a serious ethics violation if one of your attorneys, paralegals, or members of your staff knowingly or unknowingly sends a friend request to a represented party in litigation. Are you 100% sure that someone at your office isn’t accidentally putting your firm in serious risks of violating the ethics rules?

Your law firm need to be certain that your social media investigations are done right and risk free. You need to work with a trusted provider like SMI Aware.

SMI Aware’s team of independent social media investigation experts have been thoroughly trained on all the legal ethics rules that govern social media searches and online investigations. SMI Aware won’t send a friend request to a represented party. Instead, they leverage their proprietary technology to make sure that all social media evidence and online information is collected in an ethically compliant manner. Best of all, SMI Aware will establish a chain of custody to make sure that not only is your evidence collected in a defensible and compliant manner, but the evidence will be admissible in court. 
Don’t put your law firm at risk. Make sure your social media investigations are done right by working with a trusted provider like SMI Aware. Contact us today to learn how we can help you with your next online investigation in a manner that’s risk free and complies with the legal ethics rules.

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